If your loved one has recently passed away, you may find yourself not only overwhelmed by grief and learning how to navigate life without them, but you may also be responsible for dealing with their estate – all of the assets and possessions they left behind. One of your first responsibilities is to submit their will to Texas courts, if they had one. While all wills must pass through the court, some situations won’t require you to probate a will in Texas (to “probate” is to go through a series of legal procedures to validate the will and carry out its contents).
If the will…
- Isn’t contested at all, meaning all heirs agree completely on how the estate should be distributed
- Makes instructions for assets that are protected in a trust, owned in joint tenancy, are in retirement or payable-on-death accounts, or are in a life insurance policy
- There are no creditors who are demanding payment for outstanding debts from your loved one’s estate
- The value of the estate is not very high, or the estate didn’t include any real estate
Then it’s possible that you won’t need to probate the will.
If you’re unsure, or want more information about wills and probate, The Law Office of Michelle E. Murphy can help you understand what your specific legal duties are and what you need to do to ensure that your loved one’s last wishes are honored!
How Long Do I Have To Probate A Will In Texas?
Texas law allows you to submit a will to the probate court within four years of a decedent’s passing. However, the longer you wait to submit the will, the longer it will take for probate to be resolved, if it needs to occur. Waiting also puts your inheritance—and that of every other beneficiary—in danger of disappearing into late fees or legal procedures started by creditors or other heirs. If the will is not submitted within that four year period, the will is treated as if it did not exist and becomes legally unenforceable, meaning that Texas’s intestate laws will determine what will happen to your deceased loved one’s property.
What If A Family Member Won’t Release The Will?
In some cases, bereavement so consumes a family that producing the will doesn’t occur to them until they need to divide up the decedent’s assets. Unfortunately, some spouses or designated representatives may not like the will’s contents and refuse to share it with others. If this situation happens, family members or other beneficiaries can file a motion to force the representative or spouse to relinquish the will to the Texas probate court.
What Happens If The Will Does Need To Undergo Probate?
If it turns out that you do have to probate a will in Texas, you’ll need to follow these steps:
Submit The Will
The first thing you’ll need to do is to submit the will to the local court where the decedent resided.
Take Inventory Of The Decedent’s Assets
After submitting the will, you must collect all of the assets that your loved one owned and submit an asset inventory to the probate court. The inventory should include:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Life insurance
- High-value possessions
- Retirement plans
- Unpaid wages
- Unpaid commissions
- Business interests
- Business investments
- Copyright registrations
- Intellectual property
- And any other possession owned in their name.
Notify The Public & Creditors
All creditors owed debts from the decedent should receive written notification of the decedent’s passing, including any required documentation such as a death certificate. You are also legally required to publish a public death record with the local newspaper, which allows creditors fair notice to present any claims to the probate court. These notices, also called letters testamentary, give creditors six months to make their claims.
You will need to use the assets/money from the estate to pay off creditors who can prove that they have unpaid balances from the decedent. You (or your probate lawyer, if you are working with one) can negotiate with creditors to reduce the amount of debts owed.
Once creditors have received payment, and all probate fees are paid, you need to give the rest of the assets to the other beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
Why Hire A Texas Attorney To Help You Probate A Will In Texas?
If it turns out that you do need to probate your loved one’s will, you’ll have to engage in complex legal proceedings while still suffering emotionally from losing your loved one. Probate court involves multiple court visits and extensive paperwork and hard deadlines; inexperienced representatives may feel overwhelmed with the amount of work to do before, during, and after probate occurs.
A probate lawyer can take the weight of probate off your shoulders and take care of everything for you, including all of the above mentioned tasks. Working with a probate law firm helps you save:
Probate can take an average of six months in Texas, and that’s for a simple and straightforward estate; it can take much longer in many cases. Representatives often sink an incredible amount of time into finalizing their loved one’s will. A probate attorney is a legal professional who is intimately familiar with all of the nuances of the process and who can get the job done quickly so it doesn’t continue to interrupt your life!
You may incur additional legal fees if you miss deadlines or make mistakes during the probate process. These fees can pile up over time. A probate lawyer can help you find ways to minimize costs and complete the process efficiently so you can preserve your loved one’s inheritance.
After losing a loved one, you have enough to worry about, and dealing with confusing legalities will only add to your stress level. A probate lawyer can answer your questions and reassure you that your case is in capable hands so you can focus on moving forward with your life after loss.
The Law Office Of Michelle E. Murphy Is Here To Help You.
Attorney Michelle Murphy has over two decades of experience in probate and estate planning law. Her compassion and knowledge of the specific challenges that estate executors and families face can make a difference in how quickly and easily your case is resolved. If you are mourning the recent death of a family member, and are unsure whether or not you need to probate their will or know that you do, call us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll give you honest advice and inform you of your next steps!